Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday of the Last Judgment

‘On the western wall of the Kiev Cathedral of St. Vladimir, remarkable for its murals, right over the entrance to the church is a wonderful representation of the Last Judgment. First of all, we are struck by the mass of people, their faces, eyes, and you have the vivid awareness that you are among them. Involuntarily, you try to find yourself, to determine your place according to your spiritual state. And within you occurs, as it were, a private judgment upon yourself. There are faces expressing terrible sorrow, a totally perished life trembles in them. There are others, full of malice, hatred, murmuring, envy, insatiable desires. Life passed on, but something is gnawing at them and will eternally gnaw at them.

‘But here, rays of light start to break their way through the enormous clouds, and they show us other faces: quiet, calm, joyful, happy. This is life! And the closer they are to the Throne, the more clear these faces are. And over the Throne shines the Cross. On the Throne is seated the Lord Savior of the world Himself, and around Him, John the Baptist, The Apostles, all the Saints are praying, triumphing. Here is harmonious rejoicing. Only one cry, one wail disturbs it. The Mother of God has fallen on the shoulder of Christ, and she alone is pleading for the salvation of sinners, for mercy for all those without hope…’

Receiving in an email from my dear sister in Christ, Presvytera Candace of Anchorage, Alaska, a meditation on the Last Judgment (by her cousin, Fr Demetrios Carellas), along with a remarkable image portraying it, I was encouraged to go online and look for a larger example of it.

In the process I found at least one other image that I also found remarkable. The original image I was seeking is above. The other one I found is at the end of this post.

What distinguishes the ikonography in the Ukrainian cathedral church of St Vladimir in Kiev (right) is that it is not Byzantine but naturalistic. The artist is Viktor Vasnetsov, of the revivalist school, a painter of historical paintings. The realism of his paintings in this cathedral is, to me, very startling.

In the second image, the Christ child looks more lively and ‘for real’ than I have ever seen Him anywhere, and not in a bad way. We can never get enough testimony regarding the manhood of Jesus Christ. The hero-worshiping spirit of the old man has to be constantly corrected by the matter-of-fact spirit of the new man in Christ:
God became man. Accept that fact. It will make it so much easier for you in the long run. You can't be more spiritual than God.

Here's the other image I found, a detail of the platytera in the cathedral at Kiev, the wall above the altar, always reserved for images of Christ in the arms of His mother. Who wouldn't want to receive the blessing of this Baby?

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